On the 26 of Dec. (Boxing day), Yorm Bopha and Tim Sokmony stood trial.
Having already spent more than 100 days in pre-trial detention, their arrest is widely regarded by Human Rights organisations and fellow community members as being politically motivated, due to the fact that the women are prominent land activists. Amnesty International have labelled the women as ‘Prisoners of Conscience’.
Sokmony, from the Borei Keila community was accused in Sept. 2012 of making a ‘false declaration’ to authorities in order to secure an apartment for her son. She had been evicted from her home in Jan. 2012, and has refused compensation offered by the developers as inadequate.
Bopha, from the Boeung Kak community came to prominence while involved in protesting against the conviction of 13 of her fellow community members in May – June 2012. She was arrested in early Sept 2012 and held in connection with the beating of a suspected thief.
After more than 5 hrs of trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal court on the 26 Dec. Sokmony, who had been charged with fraud, had her sentence suspended and she was free to return home late that evening. Supporters who had gathered near the court were jubilant but anxious as the verdict for Yorm Bopha was still to be heard the next morning.
On 27 of Dec. supporters again gathered near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to await Bopha’s verdict. After several hours of waiting, news made it’s way through the crowd that Bopha had been convicted of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances and sentenced to 3 years in prison and given a fine of 30,000,000 riel (~ US$ 7500). Community members and supporters rushed the line of police officers and attempted to push their way through the blockade. Women and children were crying and wailing, and a small group pushed and grabbed at the fence and riot police shields, until the police turned on the electric shields and the crowds retreated.
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